Something remarkable happened in Albany not that long ago and its repercussions continue to be felt throughout the state.
It was six months ago that New York State United Teachers sponsored a ground-breaking conference that focused on the most pressing issue facing New York schools today: an achievement gap that leaves too many of our children behind. "Every Child Counts: A symposium dedicated to ending the gap" included the voices and ideas of more than 400 community leaders and key stakeholders in education, government and business and put the problem of the gap high on the agenda of every participant and the constituencies they represent.
I am so very proud of how NYSUT -- leaders, members and staff -- have stepped up to enthusiastically embrace closing the gap as a long-term commitment. At the same time, others in education, health care and government have come to realize that ending the gap is vital to spurring an economic and social resurgence in New York state.
While most of our public schools are very successful -- independent sources such as The Education Trust and "Education Today" bear that out -- there are students in communities across the state who are struggling even before they start school. They start out behind and very often never catch up.
This gap in achievement is most pronounced for students living in poverty, and too often that means children of color. It is a gap found not only in urban schools, but in rural and suburban settings as well. Other factors including inadequate health care, poor nutrition and limited access to early childhood education are consistently present. At stake are the very futures of our most precious assets -- our children -- as well as the future of New York state.
NYSUT has just released to the public a report generated from our symposium. Not only does this report summarize the conference discussions and presentations, it also spells out in simple terms the key themes that we believe are essential to providing the foundation for action to end the gap once and for all and ensure educational equity for all our children.